The Bakers Buy into BohemiaSep 29, 2022 04:10PM ● By Lisa Lukecart
Photo by Sarah Lemke
It’s not uncommon for someone to rattle the building's door handle, peer through the windows, or stare at the brick façade from the sidewalk. Curiosity might stem from a sign nestled above a light fixture on the contemporary structure along 14th Street.
Who wouldn’t imagine dough dusted with flour, cookies sprinkled with cinnamon, or cake drizzled with melted chocolate inside?
On this day, however, married couple Scott and Sara Baker were rolling out pizza dough from Rotella’s Italian Bakery in their kitchen, which is nestled inside the modern structure. Sara prefers sausage with banana peppers, while Scott sticks with classic pepperoni. The cheese melted to a golden brown in their 30-inch Bertazzoni range on the pizza setting.
“We don’t eat out,” Scott explained.
Neighbors invited over for a party bit into crunchy slices of homemade pizza or sipped drinks poured from old-fashioned decanters. Alcohol bottles rested inside a handed-down metal toolbox on top of a green tool cart (the “cocktail bar”). French music played, pumped in from the surround-sound speakers which Scott wired himself. A home to entertain friends and family was part of the Bakers’ design vision.
Building a modern house on a small, vacant lot in a traditional neighborhood didn’t come without its share of headaches. Scott sketched out the plans on a piece of paper, and Kenneth Hahn Architects erected the couple’s dream home. The skeletal structure has a contemporary urban style, but with some added character. Parapets edged along the flat roof make it feel as though it belongs in an older part of the city.
The 2,800-square-foot house appears, at first glance, like a business, with its flashy front windows. The backside appears simpler with black paneling, two garage doors, and smaller windows. It’s walking and biking distance to vibrant downtown, diverse Little Bohemia, and breweries enhance the appeal of the once-empty lot. Building the house on a tight lot didn’t come without its share of difficulties either. The driveway at the rear slopes down into the garage. Scott keeps a 1923 Model T Ford there, which he re-built into a hot rod.
“There was not a lot of room to maneuver. [The garage] is restricted size-wise, but it fits at the end of the day,” president Ken Hahn said.
Even though the Bakers have only been married for five years, their design styles mesh seamlessly. The result showcases an interior and exterior environment of thoughtful decisions. Take the home’s ceiling, constructed of standard lumber…nothing special. But painted a tricorn black, it resonates a hip vibe. The clean, symmetrical appearance of the rooms delivers an airy ambiance. A black 10-foot ceiling fan, the biggest before jumping to an industrial model, cools the space on hot summer days. Pops of thrifty touches throughout the house never seem unprofessional, partly due to Sara and Scott’s resourcefulness. Scott, 56, credits much of his design and construction knowledge to his 37 years spent with Nebraska Furniture Mart—starting at the bottom unloading trains, then becoming manager of the repair shop, and now in his current role as director. His father, Clyde Baker, showed him most of the tools of his trade.
“We were poor. You want something, you better damn well know how to build it or fix it,” Scott said.
This mentality helped him develop many innovative and ingenious designs. For instance, during a snowy day in the winter, Scott loaded old, wooden communion railing from St. Bernard’s Church into his trailer. This “smoking-hot deal,” found in a reseller’s basement, became the bottom of their kitchen island. His father helped with the insanely heavy piece that took them about a day to hammer together. Cabinets on the back side allow a microwave and small appliances to be tucked away. The gray quartz countertop complements the oak base, as well as the four retro-style barstools.
Sara, 59, has “shopped smart” since her high school days, she said. She’s picked up pieces from Facebook Marketplace, the Fremont Swap Meet, and various secondhand shops.
“Sara haggles them down,” Scott said, laughing.
“I only buy stuff if it’s on sale,” Sara explained.
She found old-school pendant light fixtures, possibly once from a hospital, at the Omaha Habitat ReStore for $35 each. They now hang over their kitchen island. A larger, matching fixture from a church hangs over the entryway door.
According to Sara, however, the best deal of the entire house sits prominently in the living room. Sara bought two tobacco-colored chairs—an expensive Sherrill Furniture brand—for $22 apiece from a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store. The chairs sit in front of the immense gas fireplace, made from the same reclaimed brick as the home’s exterior. It retains a timeworn classic mien which both adore.
“You have to add soul somehow,”
A hairdryer transformed into a lamp casts a glow over beauty shop chairs reupholstered with a blot of cranberry mohair. Guests can set down their drink, or figure out their foot size, on what was once a shoe-fitting bench turned into an end table.
The couple laugh about their once “gross” and “wet” vinyl loveseat find pulled from a sketchy house.
“We pulled up thinking we are going in, but might not come out,” Scott said.
But the furniture rescue proved worthwhile after he stripped the loveseat down to timber and springs, then covered it with a trendy cowhide rug. Scott sometimes has to “MacGyver” items, but his handiness with tools is inspired by Sara’s creativity.
Don’t plan on them reselling the house any time soon.
“We built it for us,” Sara said.
This article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of Omaha Home magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.